There was an article in the Daily Record last month (Store bosses tell staff to put customers first to win business) that caught my eye as I was browsing my RSS feeds and other sources for ideas for future blog posts.
The reason that this article caught my eye was the news that Shell has reintroduced forecourt attendants to its petrol stations. This is explained in the following quotes:
“Brand loyalty and customer retention are crucial. It’s a welcome change in our modern self-service world, where human contact is fast disappearing.
“The companies are saying, ‘We do things differently. We care.’”
For example, oil giants Shell have just reintroduced forecourt attendants – who will fill up your car and check your oil and tyres for free – at more than 300 garages across the UK.
It’s a throwback to a golden age of motoring and Shell’s belief is that, faced with cut-price competition, motorists will appreciate the extra service and come back again.
“With petrol, for example, there is very little you can do to change the product perception as most folk won’t differentiate between one petrol and another.
“There is an element of loyalty or preference when it comes to filling up but most people buy petrol based on price or proximity.
“But if the attendant can identify problems with tyre pressure and oil, for example, it is of benefit as most consumers rarely check for themselves.
“With the recent increase in forecourt retailing, the petrol companies recognise that they need to develop their service further to increase their value and relevance to consumers.”
According to Shell, they have reintroduced forecourt attendants at almost 300 of its UK sites. Their Attended Service programme is staffed by around 400 attendants that have been trained by the Automobile Association (AA) to be able to carry out a range of car care tasks as well as helping with refuelling.
The other reason this is interesting for me is that ten years ago I was working for Shell in new business, innovation and internal consultancy roles. Part of what I was responsible for doing was to look at new business ideas and ways that Shell could introduce new business ideas and grow it’s business, particularly its consumer facing business. One of the things that we suggested, in the course of our business model development and idea generation, was the reintroduction of forecourt attendants on petrol retail sites.
But, we weren’t successful as we weren’t able to get the support needed to get the idea off of the ground due to not being able to make the business idea and opportunity ‘attractive’ enough for a company the size of Shell.
So, what has changed? Is it that:
Now, whilst I would like to say that we were ahead of our time, the reality is, I believe, that the economic environment has fundamentally changed.
“Many companies are realising customer service is now a key part of business strategy, with a real impact on commercial performance.
“In an uncertain economic climate, customers are becoming increasingly selective. They are looking for value for money but also want to buy from companies they trust, who are easy to do business with and give them a high level of customer service.
“Organisations are finding that investing in customer service brings tangible benefits to their business, by retaining customers and persuading them to spend more.
I know that Shell takes it’s time to make decisions and make new moves. So, if they are realising that introducing customer service back into their business model and realise it is a real differentiator and a source of competitive advantage (and they are not traditionally the first to the party) and you are not then my question is: Why not?
Shouldn’t you be asking how you can add more service into your business model before your competitors do?
Thanks to Shell for the image.
Note: I write these posts because I am passionate about great service and helping companies get more value and growth out of the customer relationships they already have. If you’d like to find out more about how I do that then get in touch here. Alternatively, sign up for my monthly newsletter here.